God of Peace (Isaiah 28-32)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry for the unexpected hiatus. My family and I had a very stressful situation with trying to move, I simply didn’t have time to blog. But today I return and we will continue on with the Isaiah study that we started at the end of April.

In today’s section, Isaiah opens with a warning aimed at Samaria (the capitol of the northern kingdom). However this message could be applied to the entire northern kingdom of Israel. After King Solomon’s reign, the kingdoms split. One major way the leaders tried to keep the people from going to Jerusalem to worship was by placing idols inside a temple. This tempted Israel into idol worship. He tells them that they will soon be destroyed by foreigners and taught the lessons that God has been trying to teach them by their oppressors. Then God moves to Jerusalem (the capitol of the southern kingdom). He warns them of following in the footsteps of their northern relatives. I particularly denounces worship by going through the motions. “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-mad rules learned by rote.” (29:13, NLT). Another version is translated, “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.”. He then continues to tell them how worthless it is to rely on other human beings, and not God. Isaiah depicts the coming of God’s anger, but God tells His people, “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved.” (30:15, NLT). Isaiah then goes on to describe what the coming King will bring to the people. “Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field. And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever.” (32:16-17, NLT).

I think that in today’s world, most people are suffering from symptoms of not following God. I even have these problems myself. They come in the form of questioning yourself, God, or others and a general sense of chaos. I heard a sermon a few weeks back. The pastor was talking about hearing God’s voice. He showed a graphic that one side had the characteristics of God’s voice, and the other was the characteristics of the Enemy. On the Enemy’s side were words like, “chaos”,  “insecurity”, “instability”. Yet on God’s side were the words “peace”, “security”, “stability”. I think we have too many people running around not listening. Isaiah tells us that when the King comes that His righteousness will bring peace. That Kingdom is upon us my friends. We have to simply reconnect (or connect for the first time) to God, who is our King. When we are in His presence, we feel like we are at home. If you’re in a place where you are feeling uncomfortable, or not sure of yourself, or simply depressed, I promise you that those feelings are not from God. I encourage you to crack open a Bible (not that we aren’t doing that now) and reading one of the Gospels. I’ve had to do this myself recently, while moving made my life a little too chaotic. I promise it works. Our God is a god who bring peace. Remember that.

 

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God’s Ways or My Ways (Judges 19)

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In today’s chapter we really see how low the morality of Israel became without a Judge or a king. We know that Israel had gotten bad in the past, but we weren’t shown exactly how much. Here we meet another Levite that left his home to find a new place to live and landed in the hill country of Ephraim. This man had taken a woman to be his concubine. She was unfaithful to him and ran away to her father’s house in Judah. After four months had passed, the Levite traveled to get his concubine back. He stayed in his father-in-law’s house for three days, and decided to leave on the fourth. He was convinced to stay another day. So on the fifth day he finally left. When night was approaching, the Levite’s servant suggested staying in Jerusalem until morning. The Levite said no, because Jerusalem was not an Israelite city; so they continued on to Gibeah (which was an Israelite city). They took refuge with an elder man, who was also from the region of Ephraim. Then the story turns into one that reads like the story of Lot and his family during the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:1-29). The  men of Gibeah came to the man’s house and demanded that he give them the Levite so they could have sexual relations with him. The man refused, but offered his own daughter and the Levite’s concubine. The men refused them and insisted on the Levite. The Levite then forced his concubine out into the crowd, and they took her and abused her throughout the rest of the night. In the morning she was released, but when she reached the house, she died.

The last two chapters start with the same phrase, “Now in those days Israel had no king.” (18:1, 19:1, NLT). This phrase can be taken in two different ways. At first, you can take it at face value. When it says “Israel had no king” it could literally mean there was no king, no central governing body to rule over the people. The second way you can take it is that Israel did not follow any sort of king. If you remember from a few chapters ago, Gideon told the Israelites, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you!” (Judges 8:22, NLT). This would mean that the Israelites were not even listening or obeying God.

As terrible and tragic as this chapter is, I think it paints a very good picture of what our lives can be like without God. When we remain in sin, we run our lives into the mud. We ruin them because we are looking out for ourselves, with little or no care for the cost. But Jesus changes this for us. He gives us the opportunity to be reconnected with God, and learn to live good, godly lives.

We read in John’s letters, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10, NASB). Since we know God, we know how to love, and Jesus calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:23, NASB). This love that we share will not let us step on or hurt others to keep us in a better place. Rather it forces us to humble ourselves beneath all others in order to serve them, and build them up into a better place.

So I ask you a simple question. Are we more likely to act like the men of Gibeah and serve our own wants and desires, or do we put ourselves aside in order to help others? We all know what the right answer is, but try to be honest about it. I know that there are times the mantra “Gotta look out for #1” pops into my thoughts. It’s also the way the world teaches us to be. But this is a time where we must question, do we do what the world teaches us, or Christ?

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Psalms to Pray: Psalm 84-87

Are You Living a Lie? (Judges 17)

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In today’s chapter, we meet a man named Micah. Micah had stolen some money from his mother. When he returned the money, she made some of it into a idol of him. Micah then made a shrine for the idol and set it up in his house. One day a Levite from Bethelehem came to Micah’s house looking for a place to stay. Micah offered the man a salary to remain in his house and be his priest. Micah finishes by saying, “I know the Lord will bless me now because I have a Levite serving as my priest.” (17:13, NLT).

Have you ever thought you were doing the right thing, but in actuality, it was completely wrong? That’s the story we find here in the 17th chapter of Judges. But it is just as applicable to our lives today. We often spend time trying to help others, when all we are really doing is hurting. Micah breaks so many of God’s laws, and brings it to the climax of hiring a priest who is breaking just as many laws. At the end he believes God will bless him because he knows that only Levites can serve as priests. It’s like someone who says I’m super rich (because of fancy houses, cars, clothes, etc) but it reality is deeply in debt. Micah is living a lie, even to himself.

Are we doing this? At my church we are reading the book not a fan. by Kyle Idleman. In this book, he asks us to take a serious look at our relationship with Christ. He wants us to realize that we want to be followers, not fans. So I ask this question of all of us today, are we really with Christ or do we think we are? Do we think we are Christians because we go to church on Sunday, be involved in ministries, or listen exclusively to Christian music? Do we think that reading the Bible for a few minutes every-so-often is helping us become deep followers of Christ? Are we living the lives God has called us to through His Son, or are we living a life that just looks like one?

These are the questions that we must ask daily to remind ourselves of what it means to be a Christian. Simply because we have a label, or repeated a prayer, or got some water splashed on us does not mean that we are following. Don’t be fooled like Micah. Know that you are doing the right thing and living a life according to God’s Will.

“People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.” –Proverbs 16:2, NLT

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Psalms to Pray: Psalm 78

Set A Fire

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Today’s Worship Sunday song is called Set a Fire by Will Reagan. It is a simple song with only two repeated sections. I started singing this during my personal worship time, because it is a cry out to God for us to know Him more. There’s a Psalm that I like that seems to fit into the feel of this song:

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for you,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My should clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.”
–Psalm 63:1-8, NASB

David writes that his body and soul are yearning and searching after God. The true heart of worship is to be this way. We don’t simply get together to sing songs. Rather we open our hearts, and search out God’s. So we ask in this song “Set a fire down in my soul, where I can’t contain and I can’t control. Cause I want more of Your God”!

This week’s set:

  • Open Up Our Eyes (Elevation Worship)
  • Set a Fire (Will Reagan)
  • Day After Day (Kristian Stanfill)
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Hymn)
  • The Solid Rock (Hymn arranged by Charlie Hall)
  • Fill Me Up

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 37